The first full day of the Iceland Airwaves festival ended and it’s clear from seeing even a small handful of the 40 acts or so playing that night that Iceland is place of extraordinary passion — not the love kind so much, but the outright explosion of feeling. “It’s from being on the island,” says one Icelander, who had lived for over a decade in Los Angeles and who now owns the West Coast influenced restaurant Glo. “When I came back here I immediately felt different. There’s an energy in the land, in wind and volcanoes that we all feel.” And despite the varying influences of each band, there’s a recognizable similarity in the need for expression, perhaps best exemplified by the band of the capitol city’s own name, Reykjavik! Although they can be melodic when they need to be, any calm in their set is a moment to catch one’s breath before the ensuing melee.
Iceland is also a place of contrasts, not just in the quickly cycling weather patterns, but most definitely in music. Just before Reykjavik!’s tinnitus-inducing set, we caught its inverse in Pascal Pinon, a quartet of 15-year old girls who catchy twee pop, song entirely in Icelandic:
Among the other bands we caught that night were Dynamo Fog, whose jokey lyrics and hard synth rock edge recall a ballsier Cake or a poppier Ween, and Bummer, a new project of a prolific young songwriter, Þórir Georg Jónsson, whose darker pulse would appeal to fans of Interpol and Joy Division, though with neither the pathos of the latter nor the affectation of the former. “Bummer” may have have seemed an apt moniker to those who would rather fist-pump to Dynamo Fog’s “Rock ‘N’ Rock,” but the throbbing Peter Hook-inspired bass lines and guitar fuzz showed great promise.
Today, over at RUV Radio, Iceland’s national public broadcasting station, KEXP hosted two more bands for you to check out today on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole: the incredible orchestral rock band Hjaltalín and the super-fun dance-pop group FM Belfast.